Forrest Kline has perhaps outdone himself. Frontman for powerpop group Hellogoodbye, Kline was the genius behind the group’s 2006 debut full length Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! That album sold over half a million copies and “Here (In Your Arms)” became a platinum single, so to outdo himself after that must have required quite the feat.
Would It Kill You? is that feat. The group’s new full length finds itself released near the end of an incredible year of music, but holds its own as one of the top releases in 2010. Undoubtedly the best poppy release this year, and probably one of the best of the last five years or so, Would It Kill You? is better than its predecessor in many ways.
But it seems almost unfair to compare the two albums because it’s almost as if two completely different bands wrote them. The difference is evident right from opener “Finding Something To Do”. Where there once was disco-esque electronics, there is an acoustic guitar. Where there once were autotuned vocals, there is now…erm…better normal vocals. Point is, this band has progressed about as much as any band can progress in four years. While not many can resist the nostalgia of songs like “Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn” and “Touchdown Turnaround”, the post-Drive Thru Records version of Hellogoodbye proves to be much more substantial.
Kline’s lyrics still smell like roses, as nearly every song is about a girl. There will be no complaints being made though, as he gets them across with a passion, intensity, and fervor that wasn’t audible on previous Hellogoodbye releases. He also delivers fantastic one-liners, such as “Driving home tonight / I didn’t see the lights / I was just watching you sleeping shotgun / I could have crashed the car / As long as there is something to see / I’ll see it with you / As long as the days continue / We’ll find something to do,” from the aforementioned opener. That may seem like a strange choice of lyrics to pull out into a review, but the music complements them so well that it is phenomenal to hear.
”When We First Met”, the first song released from this album, could prove to be a successful single in the future. It is flushed out for a pop song, but the hook is compact and the band has a great chemistry on this track. That chemistry spills over into the rest of the record, making it sound very tight and holistic. Would It Kill You? has no low points and never drags on. Departures from the sound of old Hellogoodbye continue with the presence of brass instruments on songs like “Getting Old” and “Betrayed By Bones”.
The album sees its strongest points during “You Sleep Alone” and the title track, both of which have a fast-paced rock edge to them. Hellogoodbye is at its best when Kline is belting out charming lyrics at a million miles an hour and the rest of the band is keeping the blistering pace with the same intensity. “Coppertone” is another highlight despite being completely different from most of the album. It’s a little slowed down and very well orchestrated as the vocals take a backseat to background “ooos” and a mellow guitar part.
”The Thoughts That Give Me the Creeps” and closing track “Something You Misplaced” are the other two examples of successfully slowed down songs. This band has not only progressed musically and lyrically, but it has added entire new levels of songs to its catalog with this release.
It would have been easy for Hellogoodbye to completely sell out after all of the success that they experienced after the release of their first full length. They probably could have inked a major record label contract and churned out top 40 hits for years. But like their biography says, the group has remained self-made men. With a merch store being run out of a spare bedroom and a garage-turned-recording studio, Hellogoodbye are doing big-band things in a little-band fashion, something that only adds to the allure of their music. If the result of this DIY mentality is an album like Would It Kill You?, then Hellogoodbye should never change a thing. It was worth the four-year wait.